After more than a week in the (I can't stress this enough) beautiful port city of Xiamen (not many travelers I've met agree with me...screw them) and the overrun but not overrated islet of Gulanyu, I headed out to be a little more hardcore for the weekend and get lost in a slightly more authentic Chinese city. And by authentic I mean more electric bikes. So I went to Quanzhou. The electric bikes outnumbered me 1/1 000 0000. Which seemed weird in a city of only 120,000 but I could swear there were at least a million electric bikes that passed me during my Saturday in Quanzhou. It made for lots of dodging. My balmy and breezy Gulanyu/Xiamen week of piano museums, beaches and palm trees escaped my memory pretty fast as I boarded the bumpy 2 hour bus ride north to Quanzhou and spent the weekend lost in my search for temples, city walls, museums, and of course decent food with only the staff of the 7Days Inn (no youth hostel in Quanzhou) to greet me and keep me company. Lonely Planet China (2011 edition) dedicated 2 and a half pages to Quanzhou and I attempted to see all of it in one day, which wasn't such a pipe dream but after only arriving in the city at 2 in the afternoon (I just couldn't leave Xiamen!) I did what I could.
Stop #1: Got in a cab and pointed to the Maritime Museum (told you I'm a nerd). Driver dropped me off at what appeared to be an all-in-one drab looking city museum with maritime history on one floor, Quanzhou's history in the "foreign world" on another and a mild attempt at a student art museum in the basement.
Sidebar: Marco Polo once described Quanzhou as the most important port in Asia. (Okay, serious nerd alert).The city also has an ecclectic culture for Eastern China; it's super close to Taiwan and it once had a strong Muslim population. Unfortunately that was all wiped out with a pretty serious economic collapse during the Opium Wars and most of Quanzhou's hard working trade port citizens had to flee to other Asian port cities to work. All this info made for very culturally enriching wandering potential, however.
Here's a pretty cool pic of a boat from the entrance of the Maritime Museum.
Stop #2: Walked to the city center for Quanzhou's biggest Mosque and old Buddhist temple. Mosque closed, temple under construction. The sun began to set, I was hungry and needed to move on if I was gonna check everything off the Lonely Planet list.
Here's a pic of some lanterns outside the soon-to-be-improved temple.
Stop #3: Walked past gates of the Mosque into some back alleys and dodged the bats flying overhead. Looked around for the Puppet Museum (I have no shame now) that was only scheduled to close at 8 p.m. After the bats became too much I ducked into a fancy restaurant and pointed to the museum name to the hostess. Response was: "Meiyo" (don't have). Museum was under construction too apparently.
Stop #4: The last point on the Lonely Planet list was at the other end of town so I gave up and wandered around the city center for the evening. I got some food, walked around a park, and found some clothing markets (those are always open and never under construction in China). Dodged more motorbikes, finally gave up and found a taxi to take me home. We were in traffic for 20 minutes because of all the bikes at the center of town.
Heading north from Xiamen only to head back south down Fujian province to Hong Kong was a bit of a backtrack but the seaside city wall in the breezy and not so jammed packed (!) Chonwu made it all worth it.
This was my Sunday afternoon of my Quanzhou/Chonwu weekend pre-Hong Kong trip.
Also the Mainland authenticity of Quanzhou was a good last gasp before a four day trip to Hong Kong when, after 7 weeks of wandering down China I felt like I (hate to say this) needed a break.
A break from China you ask? In Hong Kong? But isn't Hong Kong in China? Please refer to next post for further explanation.
Here's another look at Chonwu. It truly is lovely. So go there now, if you're not too scared and can find the place. I know you haven't been to Chonwu because I only saw a few Chinese tour groups there on a relaxing Sunday afternoon. So backpackers, get out of Yunnan province and head East.
Yay for me in Fujian province.
Labels: Chonwu, lonelyplanet, mosque, museums, quanzhou, temple, xiamen